Relative and absolute availability of healthier food and beverage alternatives across communities in the United States

Shannon N. Zenk, Lisa M. Powell, Leah Rimkus, Zeynep Isgor, Dianne C. Barker, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Frank Chaloupka

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47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives. We examined associations between the relative and absolute availability of healthier food and beverage alternatives at food stores and community racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and urban-rural characteristics. Methods. We analyzed pooled, annual cross-sectional data collected in 2010 to 2012 from 8462 food stores in 468 communities spanning 46 US states. Relative availability was the ratio of 7 healthier products (e.g., whole-wheat bread) to less healthy counterparts (e.g., white bread); we based absolute availability on the 7 healthier products. Results. The mean healthier food and beverage ratio was 0.71, indicating that stores averaged 29% fewer healthier than less healthy products. Lower relative availability of healthier alternatives was associated with low-income, Black, and Hispanic communities. Small stores had the largest differences: relative availability of healthier alternatives was 0.61 and 0.60, respectively, for very low-income Black and very low-income Hispanic communities, and 0.74 for very high-income White communities. We found fewer associations between absolute availability of healthier products and community characteristics. Conclusions. Policies to improve the relative availability of healthier alternatives may be needed to improve population health and reduce disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2170-2178
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Volume104
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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